India's First & Only Refugee Law Centre

Ara Legal Initiative, started in  February, 2013, is the pilot programme of The Ara Trust. It is the only organisation that has a Letter of Understanding with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) india, to provide legal aid and counselling to UNHCR's 'persons of concern'. It is also the first and only such initiative in India that works to strengthen UNHCR's quasi-judicial Refugee Status Determination (RSD) process. While the immediate objective is to strengthen rule of law in the RSD process, the overall objective is to ensure that our beneficiaries are able to achieve self-reliance.  

Ara primarily works on cases involving: (i) victims of international conflict and displacement; (ii) victims of anti-government elements; (iii) survivors of Sexual and Gender Based Violence; (iv) Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender and Intersex individuals; and (v) survivors of torture.  Over 80% of Ara's clients are women and children. 


  • Provide legal counselling about the RSD procedure conducted by UNHCR
  • Provide legal representation throughout the RSD process 
  • Provide follow-up services and facilitate access to available UNHCR/Government services 
  • Specialised programme since January 2015 for assisting survivors of torture
  • Record trends and profiles of asylum claims in India
  • Conduct community legal counselling sessions
  • Facilitate psychological counselling to victims of persecution


  • Pioneered the concept of legal representation during the RSD process 
  • Engaged with UNHCR in a collaborative manner to bring about transparency and accountability in the RSD process 
  • Only organization to have a 'Letter of Understanding' with UNHCR which documents Ara's role as a legal aid provider
  • Assisted close to 1000 individual applicants since 2013
  • Member of APRRN, a network with over 200 NGOs and individuals from 26 countries working in the field of humanitarian protection